Leaders of IATSE, which represents thousands of theatrical stage workers across the country, today acknowledged the union’s role in failing to upend “systemic racism in the arts and entertainment industry.” Calling for industrywide action, they vowed to do the “hard work” needed to “create real, lasting change.”
“We have not always lived up to our own values and ideals of unionism, through our action, inaction, apathy, and at times ambivalence,” IATSE president Matt Loeb and the union’s entire executive board said today. “For too long, we have turned a blind eye to the need for our workspaces to represent all members of our society, and for all workers to have an equal opportunity to enter the entertainment industry. We can do better. We must do better. We will do better.”
IATSE has now become the third theatrical union this month to accept their share of responsibility for the systemic bias faced by their members of color. On June 18, Actors’ Equity, which represents more than 51,000 theatrical actors and stage managers across the country, acknowledged its “historic culpability in perpetuating inequity.” And on that same day, the 4,300-member Stage Directors and Choreographers Society conceded its “own responsibility” for the lack of Broadway jobs for its members of color.
The IATSE statement comes in response to a recent open letter (read it here), signed by more than 300 underrepresented stage performers, calling on theaters, executives, casting directors, agents, critics and unions to topple the theatrical industry’s “house of cards built on white fragility and supremacy.”
“Please know we are listening to you as you rightly demand equality, inclusion, diversity, fairness, opportunity and respect,” the IATSE leaders said, noting that the Preamble to IATSE’s Constitution and Bylaws “clearly states” that the purpose of the union is to “achieve, by organization and mutual endeavor, the improvement of the social and economic conditions of employees” in the theatrical and entertainment community.
“Upending systemic racism in the arts and entertainment industry will demand humility, ownership, accountability, and a lot of hard work,” they wrote. “It’s going to take our entire community coming together to create real, lasting, change. To this end, we call for an immediate industry-wide discussion to begin to address these issues and change the culture of the arts community. It should encompass Labor, Management, Artists, Industry Professionals and Leaders. It needs to be as all-encompassing as possible, with stakeholders from every portion of the community. The IATSE is moving ahead to reshape our union to live up to the ideals in our Preamble. We want to work with our colleagues toward true transformation. Please join us.”
The IATSE letter was signed by:
Matthew D. Loeb, International President
James B. Wood, General Secretary Treasurer
Michael J. Barnes, First Vice President
Thom Davis, Second Vice President
Michael F. Miller, Jr., Fourth Vice President
Daniel E. Di Tolla, Fifth Vice President
John R. Ford, Sixth Vice President
John M. Lewis, Seventh Vice President
Craig P. Carlson, Eighth Vice President
Phil S. LoCicero, Ninth Vice President
C. Faye Harper, Tenth Vice President
Colleen A. Glynn, Eleventh Vice President
James J. Claffey, Jr. Twelfth Vice President
Joanne M. Sanders, Thirteenth Vice President
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